We’ve eaten before at the Mesa location, and found it consistently goes the extra mile. In the last year or so, the franchise has seemingly taken a much higher profile, taking over another restaurant in Mesa, and opening a location in Tempe.
The new Tempe location is sandwiched between a Smart and Final and a dry-cleaner’s, in a strip mall in one of the less vibrant areas of town.
Inside was very clean, with a very unique style of decor. A raised island was divided into small booths, each with an individual curtain, and animal-skin-print stools to assemble the seating areas. All in all, it’s not what you’d expect a Thai restaurant to look like, but it has a distinctive “romantic” feel.
The Tempe location offers about two-dozen lunch specials, half at 5.95, half at 6.95. Most of these are the “vegetable/carbohydrate/seasoning package with your choice of meat” variety. A few seemed more like Chinese-restaurant options (Sweet and Sour, Garlic Lover’s), but there were also significant choices of distinctly Thai curries and noodle dishes. It seems the menu should be broad enough for a party with even moderately finicky eaters.
I chose the Phad Sie-Ew, which was promised as thick rice-noodles, chicken, egg, and broccoli. While the seasonings were well balanced, and I was wild for the soft, clumpy noodles, I was mildly disappointed at the relatively small portion of broccoli. Part of the reason I like Asian cuisine is that it seems more virtuous nutritionally than a cheeseburger, so indulge my delusion!
The waitress got all of our orders correct. I will note they did seem to come out in a staggered fashion– but with the same dishes together, suggesting the bottleneck may have been the kitchen more than the wait staff– perhaps our party was just a bit too large, especially for a place having just opened and still refining.
Papaya Thai seems to be continuing a successful tradition. While the Tempe location has just opened, there were none of the “new restaurant snafus” you’d expect, and the food seems of similar quality to other locations.